Rockland County, NY – A Chinese style acrobatic troupe that performed in front of a crowd of thousands at a Lag B’Omer parade on 18th Avenue in Borough Park last week was comprised not of Chinese acrobats, but a group of talmidim at a Monsey mesivta, known for its innovative motivational techniques.
Re-Ku-Dim is a project of Mesivta Shaarei Arazim, a boys high school located in Monsey, who puts their motto “The Yeshiva That Motivates” into practice, using unique programs to help the bochurim grow, both as individuals and in their learning.
“We need to give our talmidim an opportunity to shine,” explained Rabbi Zev Freundlich, menahel of Mesivta Shaarei Arazim. “All children want to look good, they want to feel good. If we don’t give them a chance to get that geshmak in yeshiva, they will find ways outside of the yeshiva environment to fulfill that need.”
The yeshiva hired Frank Adams, a former Olympic gymnast who is now a Monsey resident, to train the members of the acrobatic troupe. According to Adams, the three times a week, two hours workouts are extremely aggressive.
Below video Mesivta Shaarei Arazim’s Chinese Acrobats preforming at a Wedding.
“The yeshiva rents out a local gym for the boys but this isn’t a quick gym workout,” explained Adams. “Most of these boys have no athletic experience other than an informal basketball or softball game and had never done a stretch in their lives. They do a full cardio warmup and a complete body stretch followed by a thorough gymnastics acrobatic workout but in no way does this ever take away from their learning. The boys don’t miss night seder, maariv or anything else. They may not get home till after eleven o’clock at night after a workout but they know they have to be in yeshiva for shachris the next day.”
“Participation in the group requires tremendous commitment from the boys,” Rabbi Freundlich told VIN News. Rabbi Freundlich trains with the bochurim and says that approximately one third of the boys drop out of the program, which is open to students from tenth through twelfth grades.
One day a week the boys take to a local high school track where they run outside, oftentimes in the extreme cold, running up and down the bleachers at 6 AM. But aside from the physical benefits, Adams believes that the boys gain in other ways as well.
Below video: The yeshiva preforming Lag B’Omer parade on 18th Avenue.
“These boys have learned skills in becoming men as well as talmidei chochomim,” said Adams. “They learn about commitment, teamwork and character development. There is no way to succeed as part of an acrobatic troupe, in the Beis Medrash or in life, without these necessary skills.”
Three of the nine boys who are part of Re-Ku-Dim will be graduating in June and Adams is already working with a group of ninth graders who hope to join the group in their newly expanded act next year.
“This requires perseverance, stamina and a willingness to push yourself hard,” said Rabbi Freundlich, who said the bochurim develop a tremendous amount of achdus as well as personal pride, something which carries over into their learning as well. While the group functions as a fundraiser for the yeshiva, for Rabbi Freundlich, it is first and foremost about giving the boys the knowledge that there is nothing they can’t do.
“The bochurim learn right away that the words ‘I can’t’ are not allowed in our yeshiva,” said Rabbi Freundlich. “In ninth grade the boys have to build their own desks with their own hands and they use that desk for the next four years. I show them how, the older bochurim help them and they learn right away that there is nothing they can’t do.”
In keeping with that philosophy, every boy in the yeshiva davens for the amud, layns and gives a short dvar Torah after davening. While supper in the yeshiva is prepared under the auspices of the main chef, a 12th grader, every day two different bochurim are responsible for preparing supper for the entire school, which includes soup, a salad, a main dish and a dessert.
Mesivta Shaarei Arazim is also well known for its marching band, which has performed at countless weddings, dinners and other events for over six years. The band is taught by one of the secular studies teachers who also runs a professional marching band, and consists of approximately thirty students who perform in full dress uniforms. For most marching band members, it is the first time they have ever played an instrument.
“We are building talmidim,” said Rabbi Freundlich. “What makes a person great is the talents and abilities that Hakadosh Baruch Hu gave him. We can’t focus only a bochur’s brain and his ability to learn.”
In a videotaped approbation, Reb Reuven Feinstein praised the dedication of the yeshiva’s hanhala and their unique approach to chinuch that provides the talmidim with a sense of self assurance.
“They give these children satisfaction in their learning and in themselves,” said R’ Feinstein. “They become a gavra, because they have the confidence to be able to stand up, knowing who they are.”
Below video, wedding marching band preformed by the Yeshiva students.